Editorial: Annapolis is ill prepared for Annapolis Neck emergencies

| April 1, 2014
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failBoy did Annapolis drop the ball this past week.  It started with a car fire on Thursday night that snarled traffic for 3+ hours and shut down the main intersection leading into the lower Annapolis Neck peninsula.

Four days later, a car hit a telephone pole and shut down Forest Drive for 18 hours.  And while the City claims they had no idea traffic might back up “all the way to Eastport“, thousands of commuters (mostly County residents) sat for hours trying to get home.  The Mayor, newly elected Michael Pantelides brushed it off saying that “when traffic gets backed up it gets backed up.” This is unacceptable for our City leaders.

Look at what others were experiencing:

The police say they were short staffed and needed the County to help them out, yet many commuters reported not seeing any officers directing traffic.

Why didn’t the City call out the Public Works department to handle the appropriate road closures and allow the police to direct traffic through the intersections? When there was a car fire, why did commuters need to wait 3 hours for a County sand truck to deliver sand when we likely have plenty at the City’s Public Works garage? Someone is not thinking.

The City claims to have plans in place to handle earthquakes and hurricanes.  Really? Is it unrealistic to think a pole might block Forest Drive during a hurricane or earthquake?  What then?

The solution to yesterday’s jam was relatively simple. It would not have completely alleviated the issue, but it certainly would have mitigated it.

  • Public works erects barriers at closed streets
  • Public works places trucks at major intersections
  • Public works deploys the Variable Message Signs advising commuters, like they do when traffic in Ward 1 will be impacted by a race
  • Police (or auxiliary police officers)are placed at major choke point intersections to override the traffic signals and direct traffic

Had this been put in place, traffic could have flowed down Hilltop/Tyler to Bay Ridge as a parallel artery. Granted, these issues do not happen all that often, but when they do, the City needs to be prepared to handle it.

Instead of saying “well when traffic backs up, it backs up,” Mayor Pantelides needs to understand and acknowledge that it was an abject failure!  The system did not work–period. Own the problem, and address it and make sure it does not happen again.

The City did an admirable job with snow removal this winter and it is disappointing to see a failure of this magnitude. The Mayor, the Acting City Manager, and the City Council need to delve deeply into this failure.  The citizens of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County cannot wait until a true life and death emergency is upon us to realize that we cannot effectively handle heavy traffic moving on and off of the Annapolis Neck peninsula.

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Category: Editorial, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009. John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.
  • bo Houle

    Where is the distinction between city and county. I am not sure this is strictly a city problem and your blanket criticism may be a bit unfair. Are you aware of exactly where the city boundaries are. Just suggesting there is more to this than appears.

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

      The choke points were within the City and the City took ownership of the issue with their police, etc. The accident happened in the City. The intersection of Forest/Bay Ridge/Hillsmere is on the border of the County and the City. It gets confusing because maintenance of Forest Drive (plowing/repairs) falls within the County responsibility, but there was no failure of the road. Annapolis owned this one.